Friday Roundup April 1: Our stories — how cities and islands may disappear by the end of the century, making water from fog, a 65-year-old “mother” osprey, salmon spawn for first time in 200 years in the Connecticut River, why robins were in your garden this winter! None of the stories is an April Fool’s joke!
West Antarctic Ice Sheet Decline Spells Faster Doom: If you live in a coastal area, a city that faces the ocean or a tidal river, or are an island-dweller – watch out! The great West Antarctic Ice Sheet – about the size of Mexico – seems to be breaking up faster than anyone previously calculated. The bottom line: sea level could rise five-to-six feet by 2100, swamping New York, Boston, New Orleans, Miami, Mumbai, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and countless island nations (try the Maldives, Seychelles, Marshall Islands, etc). A full breakup could mean a 12-foot rise in the ocean level. The details are based on a new climate model by David Pollard (Pennsylvania State University) and Robert M. DeConto (University of Massachusetts/Amherst), with the research published in Nature. some good news in the paper – providing that countries act NOW to limit emissions from greenhouse gases. Check out the front page stories in the Washington Post and New York Times. Plus reporting by Elizabeth Kolbert (New Yorker/author of The Sixth Extinction). Access to the Nature article.
Climate sensitive birds on the move: Wonder why there were robins, goldfinches and other sun-loving migratory birds hanging around your yard this winter? (first of all, it depends where you live!). The Washington Post reports on findings just published in Science by a joint international team that looked at the effects of warming temperatures, drought and other climate-related factors that are altering habitat ranges of migratory birds (i.e., those that normally “go south” for the winter). In the Washington DC area, where I live, there were large contingents of robins in the yard during February, trying to figure out how to feed when the ground was in a hard frost. A friend in Idaho had robins during the winter (imagine that!) Certain bird species are in decline in places where they were once abundant (wrens in Spain, for example) and some like the Baltimore Oriole might be on track to move north (no more mascot of Baltimore’s baseball team). The new research bears out studies released in 2014 on bird climate adaptation. See the Green News Update article from 2014 which shows how birds are endangered by climate change. Read the Washington Post story. Read the Science article.
65-Year-Old Mother! If you’ve never heard of a Laysan albatross, you’re not alone. One particular, very mature bird – known as Wisdom – has just, at age 65, hatched a chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific. This sexagenarian is still fertile – she’s had six chicks since 2006, and has beat out most of the competition which typically dies at less than half her age. Learn more – and check out the photos.
Ospreys Back to the Bay: Green News Update reported in 2014 on tracking the several thousand mile journey of two ospreys – known as Rodney and Ron — back to the Anacostia River, in the Washington DC area, using trackers that were attached to the birds’ backs. (See the article)
Now Annapolis, Maryland-based Chesapeake Bay Foundation is tracking two other ospreys on their annual journey from Central and South America northward, thanks to Microwave Telemetry, Inc. (MTI), which offered their services to support the CBF education programs. The company manufactures devices researchers use to track avian and marine species. “Nick” and “Quin” as they are known, made landfall in Florida as of last week, and should be on their way toward Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. You can participate in the tracking online. The good news about these migrations is that the water quality is adequate for healthy fish stocks to feed the nesting ospreys during their summer season!
Today, the Anacostia River –once among the most polluted rivers in the US — is the home of about 40 ospreys, as well as bald eagles, that feast on fish that aren’t contaminated. And they are nesting!
Salmon in the Connecticut River! It’s been 200 years since salmon spawned in the Connecticut River, but they’re back! The 407-mile-long river was once a healthy spawning ground for upwards of 50,000 fish; but pollution and dams contributed to their demise. Efforts to repopulate the river also proved unsuccessful. Last year biologists identified five wild salmon swimming upstream in 2015, and then observed them in three nesting sites. Fingers crossed that this year – for the first time since the Revolutionary War – salmon will once again be spawning in the Connecticut River. For details
Water from Fog ? We love the idea that the mist descending into the mountains and onto coasts of places like Chile could be captured as potable fresh water to use for agriculture and household use.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Engineering has been working with colleagues at the Pontificial University of Chile in Santiago on a mesh structure that, when suspended on hilltops, captures the mist into a tray and makes it available as potable water. “Mesh-based Fog Harvesters are passive, inexpensive to fabricate, with close to zero operating costs, and can be deployed in similar environments throughout the world,”according to Inhabitat, the online newsletter. Just consider the possibilities as drought and desertification impact numerous locations in Africa and the Middle East. Check out the article
House/Senate Enviro Scorecard: Want to know how your representatives in the US House and Senate voted on key environmental issues in 2015? The League of Conservation Voters makes it available through their annual scorecard. The House favorable score on enviro issues was around 41%; the Senate just a tad higher at 45%. You can check out individual votes on legislation that came up for a vote. (And we we know, a lot of bills never made it that far last year.) How did your reps score?